Lobbyists lobby, because otherwise their job title would seem silly. Sometimes they lobby for good reasons and sometimes just for cash. Hey, it’s a job, even if it’s an unseemly job. Or is it?
After his son was accused and subsequently expelled from Washington University in St. Louis last year through the school’s Title IX process, a leading Jefferson City lobbyist launched a campaign to change the law for every campus in the state.
Richard McIntosh has argued to legislators that Title IX, the federal law barring sexual discrimination in education and mandating that schools set up internal systems to police sexual violence, is tilted unfairly against the accused. His proposals — made first as a failed amendment to an unrelated bill near the end of the 2018 session and then this year as a full-fledged bill — create more protections for those accused of Title IX violations.
McIntosh is a lobbyist. So anything he pushes must be tainted, because everybody knows lobbyists are literally awful, right? A lobbyist’s stock in trade is deals and favors. The tools of his trade are access and money. Sometimes it’s called “dark money.”
Shortly after his son was expelled, McIntosh started a dark money group called Kingdom Principles dedicated to changing Title IX. The group has spent an unknown amount of money underwriting a group that is polling and buying ad time. Kingdom Principles is also bankrolling 29 lobbyists in the Capitol to push the bills — an unusual show of muscle for a single issue even in a state Capitol overrun with lobbyists.
Such groups are known as “dark money” because they are registered as nonprofits that don’t have to disclose their donors. But The Star confirmed that a source of funding for the group is St. Louis billionaire David Steward — a client of McIntosh’s since 2000 who is also a member of the Washington University Board of Trustees.
All of this smacks of the same abuse of power that taints lobbyists in general, the capacity to influence legislation by buying favors, even writing the legislation for the baby-kissers. But while McIntosh might lobby for a living, that doesn’t mean this cause is evil, or his use of his skillset this time makes his purpose improper.
People lobby for their ends all the time, whether it’s funding for medical research to end a dreaded disease or criminalizing conduct that they abhor because something must be done. The different here is that McIntosh is a pro at it rather than a one-shot lobbyist. Does that make him wrong? Is it any more unsavory for a proponent of an issue he believes to require redress to possess the skills to effectively make it happen?
Rep. Gina Mitten, a St. Louis Democrat and the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, said she had heard the rumors about McIntosh and his son.
“If that’s the case, it certainly explains the vindictiveness of the bills as filed and the onslaught of lobbyists hired to satisfy a clearly personal agenda,” she said.
The Title IX legislation has gone off “like a bomb” this session, she said, as the bills seemed to come out of nowhere, advancing so quickly, and so many lobbyists are pushing behind the scenes for them.
“My hope would be at a minimum this would give members in both chambers some serious pause about fast-tracking such big changes,” Mitten said.
While McIntosh may well have come to his cause due to personal experience, that doesn’t make the cause evil or, frankly, distinguish his motives from the myriad people who walk the hallways of power in search of a champion for their cause. His offense, if any, is that he knew how to do it better than others. Is it “vindictive” to be effective? On the other hand, any change in law, whether proposed at the behest of a lobbyist, a legislator or grandma, should give some “serious pause” before passage.
If McIntosh’s bills are sound, then his epiphany based upon his personal experience doesn’t make them less sound. That he has used the tools available to him to accomplish the goal of due process, on the other hand, is no reason to taint his efforts. Being good at what one does, even if it’s a dirty business, doesn’t make one’s goal any less valid than the purveyors of sad tears.